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March 29, 2007

The Beauty of Technology Lies in the Eyes of the Solo.....and the Client

If you have a practice-based blog you are already light years ahead of your professional peers.  But technology is very daunting and intimidating to a lot of lawyers.  Quite frankly, beyond a laptop, cell phone, maybe a blackberry or treo, and finally acknowledging they need a website, most lawyers are just screaming, "I'm not into this stuff!  How am I supposed to go solo without help.  When will I have the time to actually practice law?  I just can't KEEP UP!" 

Well, you are not alone in this anxiety-inducing hysteria.  Sometimes I feel like I have one foot in yesteryear and one foot in tomorrowland and if I move the wrong way I will fall into the great abyss. Now there is a real term for it: Technoshock - when the advancement of technology is so fast-paced that it outstrips the ability of the individual to comprehend it. This term, believe it or not, I've been told is in psychology books.  (Where did I learn it?  Well, I have a confession, I'm considering crossing over into an alternate universe called Mac-world and went to CompUSA to get an education.  When I explained my 'hysteria' the gentleman told me I wasn't alone.  Apple even has a paid representative there with his nifty black sweater vest with the Apple emblem teaching people about the benefits of the Mac universe and helping them deal with their 'Technoshock.')

I even recently saw an advertisement for a technology seminar which stated e-mail may actually be disappearing as a way of communicating, one reason - the high volume of spam so people just throw up their hands, hit the 'delete all' button and throw out their e-mail addresses.  But the ironic part is most lawyers and law firms are just realizing maybe they should use e-mail as a regular tool for communication. The train has left the station but we are still contemplating if we should get on the train?  See my point.  Technoshock.

Regardless of Technoshock, you can no longer avoid bringing state of the art technology into your practice. You need it; your client's need it. So, just capitalize on your strengths and if technology still remains the great intimidator, then you have to pay others to compensate for your "chosen" or "perceived" shortcomings.  But you no longer have the option to decline technological advances.  This is the reality.

Remember, becoming a solo practitioner doesn't mean 'no help.'  Nor does it mean that you have to get high on every electronic advancement or new software sensation.  It does, however, mean finding some balance.

Well, I found a nice little blog post by Techno-lawyer listing the 10 essential technological advancements a lawyer needs in her practice. Another great list is suppliced by Rick Gorges. And my friend, Ben Cowgill has excellent advice as well.  You can also join in the Mac v PC wars on both Ben Cowgill and Grant Griffith's sites. In addition, learn about Basecamp.

In addition, there is a new site called tenminut.es which is like 'speed-dating' for the newest technology.  On this site you will get a brief intro (and as objective a subjective commentary can be) on the latest technology with a summary as to whether you should explore the product further or not.  Like dating, you are either intrigued and want to learn more or you pass.  I think this site will prove its value.

"Essential" is always debatable and a subjective term but it also gives a cost-benefit analysis on the value of your time to do these tech-oriented tasks versus hiring someone or getting the technological assistance.  And I personally appreciate the acknowledgment that sometimes we have to have others assist us in office management, whether an individual or the actual physical technology. There are a lot of brilliant lawyers who are techno-junkies, getting their fix with every new electronic toy or software package out there, spending hours updating their current systems with every new program that emerges.  Well, we are not all like them and it really is okay that we aren't. 

Again, as a solo practitioner you can no longer ignore getting relatively up-to-the minute technology into your office in order to be more cost-effective, streamline functions, stay competitive with your peers, and present 'large.'  The Greatest American Lawyer discusses this here when he quotes an interesting observation; "

"By the end of 2007, we will be talking about a clear and growing digital divide between technology-forward and technology-backward lawyers and firms and a subtle restructuring of the practice of law."

And dollar-for-dollar, it also means you get to earn more and keep more of what you earn because of this efficiency. 

Understand this reality:  Solos can move quickly because every decision you make isn't by committee. This means you can create a state-of-the-art law practice much faster and jump to the top of the heap and sell these advancements to your clients long before Biglaw can convene a committee to determine if there is even a problem that needs to be addressed!

Again, this is a subjective list of technologies and software and others may offer their opinions based upon their personal experience and ease of use versus what was suggested by those I've linked to who are very heavily involved in these technologies.  Please feel free to contribute as all ideas and opinions are welcome.


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» Technoshock? Yikes!! from Chuck Newton
Susan Cartier-Liebel has a great post on technoshock. It is, in short, when you feel overwhelmed by the technology you need (and you are in solo practice). Susan defines it as, when the advancement of technology is so fast-paced that it outstrips the a... [Read More]


Sheryl Schelin

I can't encourage you, or any solo or smallfirm lawyer, enough to try out the Mac-verse. I consider it the single best investment I've made in technology, ever, bar none.

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